By Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn
Geraldo Rivera committed one of the most infamous flubs in the history of television journalism, with his much-hyped flop of an expose about gangster Al Capone’s time capsule. This week, Geraldo treated American television viewers to another time-capsule flop — this one involving the Gaza war.
Week after week in the spring of 1986, ABC-TV hyped Geraldo’s upcoming special, “The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults.” The gimmick was that Geraldo, on live television, was going to open a safe of Capone’s that had been shut since the 1930s. Thirty million Americans — at that time the largest audience ever for a TV special – -tuned in to watch Geraldo dramatically open the time capsule, only to find that it contained nothing but empty bottles and dirt.
Geraldo was just then gaining widespread recognition as a journalist. One would think that the Capone caper would have harmed his career. On the contrary. “My career was not over, I knew, but had just begun,” Geraldo wrote candidly in his autobiography some years later. The incident taught him that on television, the truth is often less important than the theatrics.
Geraldo showed this week that he still considers theatrics more important than truth. Only this time, the truth has to do with the Gaza war and the stakes are life and death for the people of Israel.
Appearing on the FOX-TV daytime talk show “Outnumbered” on Monday, July 28, Geraldo was asked to respond to a clip of a Hamas spokesman saying that “the Israeli occupation” was the root cause of the war.
Anybody with the slightest knowledge of recent Middle Eastern history would not have been fooled by that Hamas lie. But not Geraldo. His response was to dramatically announce that he could solve the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict “in thirty seconds.” His solution: “The Hamas spokesman was right–Israel has to end its occupation.”
It’s as if Geraldo is trapped in a time capsule of his own that was sealed in 1994.
Apparently he is unaware that in 1995, Israel withdrew from the cities in Judea-Samaria (the West Bank) where 98% of the Palestinians Arab in that region live. For the past 19 years, those Palestinians have been “occupied” by the Palestinian Authority, not by Israel. In 2005, Israel withdrew every one its soldiers and citizens from the Gaza Strip. For the past nine years, 100% of the residents of Gaza have been “occupied” first by the Palestinian Authority, and then (as of 2006) by Hamas.
There is no “Israeli occupation” any longer.
Except, of course, if Hamas and the Palestinian Authority use the word “occupation” to mean something other than what Geraldo thinks they mean.
And that’s the point. Hamas and the PA –each according to their official ideology– consider Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem to be “occupied.” They consider all of Israel to be “occupied Palestine.” They consider Israel’s very existence to be the “root cause” of the conflict, and will never accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state.
Lesson thirteen of the Gaza war: Geraldo Rivera and other ignorant pundits ought to face the truth: This is not a fight over “occupied territories” or settlements or refugees. This is a fight over Israel’s existence.
Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn are members of the board of the Religious Zionists of America. This article is part of a series. To view previous installments, please visit http://www.phillyreligiouszionists.org/lessons-from-the-gaza-war/.